M.A.S.K. Shameless cross marketing at it’s finest. Many shows live or die by their merchandising (R.I.P. Green Lantern: TAS) regardless of the quality of the show. All of the properties designed/created to sell toys are short-lived, save for the ones that strive to produce quality stories. The two shining examples are Transformers and G.I. Joe. Many of these action figure shows burst onto the scene, only to rarely, if ever, be heard from again. M.A.S.K. is the epitome of the flash-in-the-pan ’80s toy craze.
M.A.S.K. took the best of G.I. Joe (individual personalities, never-ending battle against good and evil, acronyms) and combined it with Transformers (vehicles with changing purposes, only non-sentient). The Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, M.A.S.K., fought the members of V.E.N.O.M., the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem. Slightly less on the nose naming convention included Matt “Hunter” Trakker, leader of M.A.S.K., and Miles “Wolf” Mayhem, leader of V.E.N.O.M. Keeping with G.I. Joe, every character had a codename like Powderkeg, Striker, and The Czar (Pro tip: He was Russian). The most blatantly offensive character was “Chief” Nevada Rushmore. Yep.
Each member of M.A.S.K. or V.E.N.O.M. had his own dual-purpose vehicles. A motorcycle with deployable submarine sidecar, a dune buggy/jet, or a Chevy Corvette/seaplane/submarine are just a few. The most famous ones were Miles Mayhem’s helicopter/jet, and Trakker’s flying car. This red Chevy Camaro had doors that opened like a Delorean’s, doubling as wings. Between this and Back to the Future, I wanted a DeLorean even more. Along with vehicles, every character came with a mask. The M.A.S.K. technology was invented by Trakker, and stolen by Miles Mayhem which helped people shoot lasers from their face, or other random things like “create pockets of vacuum energy.” I have an engineering degree, meaning I’ve taken many physics classes in my time, and I have no idea what that means. I guess he can make people explode from lack of atmospheric pressure? Or suffocate? I think my favorite is the “energy boomerang”, because if there’s anything I want my blast of plasma-like energy to do, it’s come back if I miss.
As far as the storyline goes, M.A.S.K. just was. There was little set up or introduction, other than a few hints dropped occasionally. Most of the back matter was seen in the comics, not that it was important. M.A.S.K. fought V.E.N.O.M. on a weekly basis, thwarting their vaguely villainous plan to do something mildly evil. Never quite setting their goals too high with something as lofty as world domination, V.E.N.O.M. was more interested in making money. Which is bad, I guess.
As for the production value of the show, the animation was on par with the typical sub par animation of the time. The audio however, was all over the place. If the sound effects used weren’t cliché by now, this show made them so. Doug Stone voiced Trakker, and about half the characters. He gave a decent performance, changing his voice enough for toy-addicted kids to not notice. His son Scott Trakker, though, was voiced by Brennan Thicke (son of Growing Pains‘ Alan Thicke) and sounded drunk. His lazy, half sleepy delivery made me question how exactly this 11-year-old got the job. Nepotism…
Everyone had their favorite M.A.S.K. toy, and mine was Scott Trakker. He came with his robot pal/scooter T-Bob. I played with that thing constantly. I think I wanted one of those more than a DeLorean. If Razor Scooters were a thing at the time, I would have been all over it. For the curious, T-Bob was short for Thingamabob. Naming things is hard.
M.A.S.K. is the perfect example of ’80s (and ’90s) toy exploitation. It’s worth it to watch an episode or two for nostalgia or curiosity, but a waste of time beyond that. The show’s only purpose today is fodder for Robot Chicken. While people gripe about Joe and Transformers, they’re two properties that still exist today because of the quality material. You don’t see Hollywood making a M.A.S.K. movie, yet … Please don’t.
What was your favorite M.A.S.K. toy? Dread the eventual big screen movie (you know it will happen)? Share your thoughts with teh internetz!
All this technology and no one invented a bullet?
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